The Old New Kid on the Block……ESDRA

A short interview with ESDRA Sports Director and Vice president Girts Eldmanis


1/ What is ESDRA?

As the name implies, its’ the Association of European Sleddog Sports Organizations (federations).  It was only a matter of years ago that ESDRA was actively in charge of European sleddog business life. It was agreed to hand things over to IFSS, to try to implement the umbrella principle and run things under one command.

2/ Why do we need another organisation, when we already have IFSS?

A bit like the debate over who came first the chicken or the egg, the same can be said for ESDRA and IFSS, but there is no question who was first…..it was ESDRA. ISDRA and ESDRA were the founders of IFSS. Over time it was tried to pass all operations from ESDRA to IFSS, but that has not worked out as hoped.

3/ What does ESDRA hope to achieve in its’ first year?

Our members (European Sleddog Sport Federations ) have asked us, the new board to try to work closely with IFSS. The emphasis must be the needs and vision of the Europeans, which includes:-

1/ Development of quality based European and major events.

2/ Development of judge education.

3/ Improvement of animal welfare and

4/ Openness in general – being closer to mushers and their voice.

That means negotiating a better cooperation contract and setting up changes within IFSS for its next GA. These are the key things to be achieved as well as finding (together with IFSS Continental director for Europe) a great host for the European Dryland Championships 2020. Its not little to achieve.

4/ How do people or nations get to be involved?

ESDRA has almost the same members as IFSS from Europe with a small, but vital difference. Involvement can happen via national federations (a new website will be opened shortly). Interaction with open minded ESDRA board may also happen via social networks. We are open for ideas and communication.

5/ What is the history of ESDRA?

ESDRA is mainly till now remembered for the great European Cup (on what IFSS World Cup is based) and setting up the regulations that we still use (changed over time of course). We will try to publish a better retrospective of ESDRA at the new web page.

6/ Why reform ESDRA now when it has not been operational for so long?

A great majority of European federations are not satisfied with the current way the cooperation contract with IFSS is going. So a new board has been elected to work for a better solution that will benefit more countries than just one specific region.

7/ Will ESDRA runs races and would they be dryland, snow or both?

It’s yet to be determined. At ESDRA General Assembley members requested that the board tries to find the best cooperation model with IFSS and continue the cooperation. But ESDRA reserves the right to organize its’ own European Championship and World Cup in the future if no agreement is found that will benefit the federations. Sleddog sport is dryland and snow and ESDRA shall not forget any of those.

8/ What classes would ESDRA support and Nordic and open?

ESDRA GA voted in favor to return the veteran classes to the upcoming European Winter championships in 2020. ESDRA will support both RNB and Open classes.

9/ What is ESDRA stance on sleddog sports in the Olympics?

It was debated and requested by several members at the last GA that the development of the sport can not blindly follow the illusive dream of IOC recognition. Yes, we have to work for the recognition, as it will help develop the sport, but not at any cost. The sport has to develop on the requests of the national federations not on unknown recognition principles that IFSS current board has failed so far to present to its members including the European ones. The biggest controversy so far of course was the removal of the veteran classes in the name of IOC.

10/ Will people think this is just a knee jerk reaction to IFSS pulling the races from Latvia?

Defiantly not. Historically it has been set up that at IFSS one country can have up to 5 votes and others just one. At ESDRA its 2 votes per country, so everyone is equal. Over time IFSS system has created bitterness among many federations as their views are plainly ignored. If the votes for closing ESDRA had happened on IFSS voting principles it would have been much, much closer (just based on 3 country opinion) to a tie rather than now a landslide decision to keep developing ESDRA. It’s more to do with the level of openness and honesty the current IFSS board is ready to operate and include national federations in decision making. When people have had enough they require change. ESDRA elected a new board just for that – to find change for the better. Not to have decisions that are unexplained, not to have events that are unrepresentative and to have answers when requested not when some feel they feel like it. European federations have spoken and given a mandate for change to its’ new board with that we openly shall work.

Girts Eldmanis


Thanks to Girts and the ESDRA team for taking the time to talk to us and for opening up good lines of communication.
Back in July there was a motion for a vote of no confidence in the IFSS Council. 13 votes in support of a vote of no confidence, 50 in support of no, 6 abstained and 11 did not vote. Would seem like the IFSS has the majority of member support…right? But when you realise that some Federations did not consult their members, the spread of votes is not equal and IFSS had released a statement prior to the vote basically saying ‘they wouldn’t go even if the vote of confidence was successful, because there were no policies in place to deal with such a situation’ you start to realise that this vote was never going to get through. Certainly there are issues with the current way the IFSS is being operated. They don’t answer communications and don’t reflect the views of what the federations members seem to want, bar a few. And still no date for the promised Veterans World Dryland Championships.

Time will tell whether the reformed ESDRA will or can make a difference and what that impact might be. One things for sure interesting times ahead……..WATCH THIS SPACE!

Have your say and leave a comment, but remember to ‘say what you mean, without being mean’

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